Estate Litigation

An Open Legacy

A loved one’s death is a painful time and may not always offer a final resolution. Open questions and ambiguities relating to the deceased’s intentions due to lack of proper estate planning can potentially pave a legacy with conflict. Failure to properly administer an estate can also create ongoing disputes during an emotionally challenging period. This could occur if the personal representative or trustee is not properly following the wishes set out in the deceased’s last will and testament.

Our Calgary estate lawyers have extensive experience advising and representing trustees, executors, personal representatives, dependants, spouses, family members, adult interdependent partners, attorneys, guardians, beneficiaries, and other claimants in disputes involving estates. While we are based in Calgary, our estate litigation lawyers can deal with disputes anywhere in Alberta and across western Canada.

Our approach to estate litigation combines personal empathy with a pragmatic resolve to deliver the best outcome for our clients. Estate disputes generally involve family and close personal relationships. This kind of conflict can be costly, both emotionally and financially. Our estate litigation lawyers work closely with our clients to understand the relationships between beneficiaries as well as their relationship to the deceased. Beyond these important interpersonal components, our focus remains on navigating the estate dispute and choosing the best strategy to deliver a positive outcome. Accordingly, we aim to respect the intentions of the deceased while leveraging the many common law and statutory legal tools at our disposal.

The main categories of legal claims involving estates include:

Challenging Wills

In order for a will to be valid in Alberta, it must meet strict formal requirements. Estate disputes often focus on determining the intentions of the deceased as evidenced by their wills. Challenges to a will are generally established by arguing that the deceased either did not have capacity to make the will or that a third party exerted an undue influence on them.

Claims by Dependants

If a family member has not been fairly provided for within a deceased’s estate, they may be eligible to bring a claim under the Wills and Succession Act. Our estate litigation lawyers act for all sides in these disputes, including executors, beneficiaries and claimants.

Guardianship and Trusteeship Disputes

Some disputes emerge prior to an individual’s death. This includes the control and disposition of assets belonging to elderly individuals who are no longer competent to look after their own affairs. Other disputes relate to the financial and personal affairs of disabled adults. Of particular concern are disabled minor children of a deceased who are nearing the age of majority.

Rule of Convenience

Agreeing to take on the role of personal representative (aka an executor) of an estate can be a big decision and in many circumstances, one that should not be taken lightly. This is particularly so as a personal representative has many legal responsibilities with respect to the estate he or she administers.

When a Will Does Not Represent Free Will: the Kozak Estate Case and the Law of Undue Influence

What happens when a Will appears not to be the expression of the testator’s own free will, but instead, the will of another? The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Kozak Estate (Re), 2018 ABQB 185 recently explored just such an issue.

The Issue of “Issue”: Construction of Wills When Parentage is Contested

It is common for testators to make gifts to their “children”, “descendants” or “issue”, such as a “gift of the residue of my estate to my issue per stirpes.” Because biological lineage is, it would seem, the criterion for entitlement to such gifts, beneficiaries under a will can try to increase their share of the gift by proving that other beneficiaries, such as their siblings, are in fact not biologically related to the testator and are thus not properly members of the class of beneficiaries.

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